Category: Others Personal Experiences

Can This Recovering Addict Successfully Crowdfund Her Halfway House?

Her Dream & Her Passion

jennifer and her daughter
Jennifer and her Wynter via Cape News

Jennifer Bows and her nine-year-old daughter Wynter are fighting an uphill battle. Jennifer, whose been in recovery for five years, wants to open a sober living home in Sagamore Beach, Massachusetts.

The only problem? She doesn’t have the upfront money needed to buy a house and start helping women. So, the scrappy Jennifer and her precocious daughter have turned to crowdfunding in an attempt to secure financing.

So far, things aren’t going great. Around a month into the campaign and the two have raised $180 of the $100,000 needed to buy a home (which, by the way, is a tiny investment in Cape Cod real estate).

Read on to learn what sets Jennifer’s proposed program apart and to explore the ethics of crowdfunding an addiction recovery program!

Learn about the link between sober living & long-term recovery!

What Makes Jennifer’s Program Different?

Jennifer Bow’s idea is to create a sober living home – commonly called a halfway house – for young women between 18 and 25 years old.

Sounds pretty standard, right? There are a ton of those across the country. So what makes Jennifer’s home different?

Well, she wants to do more than simply provide a place for addicts in early-recovery to rest their heads at night. She wants to create a program that will help women transition back to life.

To accomplish this, Jennifer is using her experience as a licensed drug and alcohol counselor as well as her years in recovery.

Some of the requirements she has in mind include making sure residents hold a job, are in school, or become involved with community service, have mandatory on-site therapy, and focus on the twelve-steps as an avenue of recovery.

According to Wynter, who was interviewed in a local Cape Cod newspaper, “She’s going to have some structure…She’s going to have meetings and get people back into reality” (Capenews.net)

According to Jennifer herself,

“I would like to purchase a home so I can open a 12 step sober home for women ages 18 to 25. I want to offer a place for young women to go after treatment, where I can give them structure and support so they will stay clean and sober and be successful and productive in society” (excerpted from Jennifer’s Go Fund Me page).

So far so good, right? It looks like Jennifer and her daughter are trying hard to raise money for a great cause. We certainly support their efforts and encourage you to check out their Go Fund Me page!

Still, her story raises an interesting question – is it ethical to crowdsource money for addiction treatment programs?

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Is it Ethical to Crowdfund Recovery Services?

Well, is it? There’s no doubt in my mind that Jennifer’s primary focus is on helping others. That’s one of the great gifts of recovery – we stop focusing so much on ourselves and turn our attention to helping other people.

Still, $100,000 is a lot of money. It really is a steal for Cape Cod real estate, but it’s a lot for people to donate. Not to mention that once her sober living facility is up and running – it has the potential to generate large amounts of personal income.

So, is it ethical for Jennifer to turn to crowdfunding to raise the money needed to start her program? Is it ethical for anyone to crowdsource money for addiction programs?

I think the answer lies in the individual’s motives. If someone is looking to fund their addiction treatment program just so they can make a buck – it’s not ethical. If someone is looking to fund their addiction treatment program so they can help others – it’s ethical.

crowd sourcing drug addiction treatment

That distinction, however, often falls into gray area. The Lighthouse Recovery Institute blog is a great example! Our primary purpose with this blog is to inform and education people about what addiction and recovery are really like. Still, it’s also generates phone calls to our facility.

Is that the primary purpose of these articles (including the one you’re reading right now)? Not at all – the primary purpose will always be education and empowerment. Does it play some part? Certainly.

And that’s the reality for just about every addiction treatment program across the country. We offer helpful services – we save lives – but not without some interest in our financial health. That’s the world of business.

Anyway, we’ve wandered off on a tangent here. The question remains, is it ethical to crowdfund a sober living home? It all depends on the individual case. In Jennifer and Wynter’s case – absolutely!

Help! I Can’t Stop Using Drugs!

The Ugly Cycle of Drug Abuse

My name is David and I’m an addict and alcoholic. I’ve been sober since April 17th, 2008. Despite those many years of sobriety, which I’m grateful for, I’m still an addict and alcoholic at heart.

want to stop using but cant
via Flickr user Clare Bell

That means, by default, I can’t stop getting high and I can’t stop drinking. It means that once I put a mind altering chemical into my body, I continue to use until the wheels fall off. It means that I’m great at starting, but horrible at finishing.

Maybe you’re like me. Maybe you have a loved one who’s like me. Maybe you’re confused and unsure about what you are. It doesn’t matter – you’ve come to the right place!

I’m going to share my experience with active addiction and alcoholism below. After that, I’m going to share how I got sober once and for all. I was as bad an alcoholic and junky as they come. If I can put down the needle, the powder, the pills, and the bottle – so can you!

If you need immediate help – if you or a loved one can’t stop getting high or can’t stop drinking and want to start a new way of life today – call Lighthouse. They’re the unrivaled experts at addiction treatment.

Read on for my story of compulsive relapse and to learn how I finally stopped drugging and drinking.

Learn why halfway houses help lead to long term sobriety!

I Can’t Stop Getting High

My addiction “origin story” isn’t much different from anyone else’s. I always felt uncomfortable and awkward in my own skin. Whenever I did anything good or accomplished something, I felt like a fake and like everyone was about to figure me out.

You know, common addict and alcoholic thinking.

I’m going to focus on what happened to me after I was introduced to recovery, which, ironically enough, was about a year before I actually got sober.

I’d been to an inpatient rehab because I couldn’t stop using drugs. I was in there for over four months. I got out and started attending meetings, going to therapy, and trying to live a healthy life.

I was high within a month. What happened? I wasn’t ready to deal with life on life’s terms (it’s cliché but also true).

I wasn’t ready to face the world without the comfort of painkillers and heroin. I wasn’t ready to be accountable for my actions. I wasn’t ready to do “adult” things like pay rent on time, pay credit card bills on time, show up for work on time, etc.

I basically wasn’t ready to do anything on time! I wanted to do things my way and my way led me to a place where I hated myself and couldn’t stop getting high. I wanted to stop, but couldn’t!

It talks about this place in recovery literature. It’s called the jumping off point and is described as the place where us addicts and alcoholics can’t imagine life with, or without, chemicals.

Sound familiar?

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I Can’t Stop Drinking

There I was, stuck in a vicious cycle of relapse, short periods of recovery, and more relapse. I was living in halfway houses and, when I got kicked out for failing a drug test, the streets.

My life was a mess. What did I do? I stopped getting high. I marshaled all my willpower and decided I was never again going to stick a needle in my arm or a dollar bill up my nose.

Guess what? It worked…sort of.

I stayed off drugs for a period of months, but I began to drink like a fish. Instead of taking a good, hard look at myself – I turned to alcohol to make everything bearable.

It did, for a while, but then I was left in a familiar position. All of a sudden, I couldn’t stop drinking! All my addictive tendencies had been uprooted from the land of narcotics to the land of booze.

Again, I found myself at that jumping off point within a short period of time. I couldn’t imagine living with or without liquor and beer. I wanted to, but I just couldn’t stop drinking.

Finally, on April 16th, 2008, I took my final drink and drug. I forgot to mention that after about six months I’d started to use pills and heroin again.

On April 16th, 2008, I took a few chugs from a bottle of gin and used the last of my money to buy some pills. I injected the pills around midnight. I walked into treatment the next morning and never looked back.

Speaking of relapse, learn how to avoid one!

There is a Solution!

So that’s my personal story of being unable to stop getting high and drinking. What about the good stuff though? What about recovery? What about the solution?

cant stop drinking or getting high

Well, I found my solution in treatment and twelve-step fellowships.

While in treatment, I actually listened to my therapist. Whatever he said, I did. He told me to complete assignments by a certain date and I had them done the day before.

I shared in all the therapy groups and took an active role in the treatment community. I was still scared out of my mind by life, but I was making an effort to show up anyway.

After treatment, I began to regularly attend a twelve-step fellowship. I got a sponsor and, like my therapy, did whatever that man said. He told me to read a certain page – I read it everyday. He told me to write out my resentments and fears – I wrote them out.

I’ve been doing that ever since and it’s working pretty well. I just celebrated seven years of continuous sobriety. What a blessing! More important, though, I celebrated seven years free of fear and behaving like a crappy person. I celebrated seven years of being a good son, friend, student, employee, and significant other.

What more can you ask?

So, if you’re like me – you can’t stop using drugs no matter how hard you try – or if you have a loved one like me – they simply can’t stop drinking even though they want to – you’re in the right place.

Call Lighthouse today! Our addiction professionals are compassionate, caring, and often in recovery themselves. They’ve been where we’ve been. They know how to get better and they’ll be able to guide you along the road of sobriety.

Until then, good luck and God bless my friends!

The Heroin Epidemic is Getting Worse in New Jersey

New Jersey’s Alarming Heroin Problem

new jersey heroin statistics

The heroin epidemic is still raging across the United States. In fact, a recently released Center for Disease Control study found that heroin use has more than doubled in the last ten years.

And bad as the situation is across the country, it’s even worse in New Jersey.

According to multiple reports, the percentage of NJ residents using, and dying from, heroin is much higher than the national average. According to NJ Advance Media, the rate of fatalities due to heroin overdose in New Jersey is upwards of three times the national rate.

As if that wasn’t enough, heroin overdoses claim more lives than murder, suicide, car accidents, and AIDs. In Camden and Atlantic counties, overdoses are deadlier than the flu and pneumonia combined, according to NJ.com.

There were 741 heroin-related deaths in 2013 alone. That number rose to 781 in 2014. This breaks down to just over eight deaths per 100,000 residents. The national average for heroin-related deaths per 100,000 people is 2.6.

These numbers put New Jersey at almost four times the national rate of heroin overdose deaths.

It’s clear something needs to be done, but what? Well, before we can begin to implement a solution, we need to take a closer look at the problem itself.

Why is NJ Being Hit So Hard?

Despite being deadlier than the national average, New Jersey’s heroin problem isn’t that different than anywhere else. They’ve been hit hard because the demographics of heroin abuse and overdose are rapidly changing.

For decades the “traditional” heroin addict has been male, African-American, in his late 30s to 40s, and of lower socioeconomic status. That’s all changing. Today’s typical heroin addict is either a man or woman, in the 18 to 25 age bracket, and solidly middle-class.

While this shift’s been occurring, “traditional” heroin addicts continue to be seduced by the drug. This all culminates in today’s heroin crisis. Men and women, black and white, rich and poor, in cities and in suburbs – they’re all using and overdosing on heroin.

New Jersey is a perfect microcosm of this current epidemic. With demographics ranging from poor, inner-city individuals to affluent families in the suburbs, they just happen to have become ground zero for heroin abuse.

So, what’s the solution? How do we combat heroin addiction when it’s become so prevalent? How do we shut the door once it’s been opened? Well, various New Jersey politicians have already begun to implement some proactive measures.

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What’s Being Done?

The newest laws, covered in detail here, were introduced by State Senator Joseph Vitale in 2014.

These include additional funding for state-sponsored addiction prevention, prescription drug monitoring programs, a dedicated opioid taskforce, and many more. A good start, to be sure, but what else is New Jersey doing?

new jersey heroin treatment

Well, Gov. Christie has launched a few programs of his own. As of July 1st, he implemented a statewide treatment hotline. Anyone can call in, at any time of the day or night, and be connected to help.

Christie has also pushed for first-responders to have easier access to naloxone and for a post jail integration program. It remains to be seen how effective these will be and whether, in the case of his “jail re-entry program,” they’ll be executed at all.

Still, these are all major steps that New Jersey’s taking to curb its heroin problem. While their impact on day-to-day overdose deaths is still uncertain, one thing is for sure – Jersey is fighting back. I’d wager that, as one of the states hit hardest by heroin addiction, they’ll also be one of the first with a real solution.

This Former Drug Addict is Making the World Smile

Do You Have Tissues? ‘Cause You’re Going to Need Them!

Have you heard of Donald Gould? No? What about his popular nickname, Boone? Still no?

donald gould
image via People.com

Well, you may have seen him in a recent viral video floating around the internet.

Gould, fifty-one years old, is a former drug addict who, unfortunately, is still homeless. He’s been making a living on the Gulf Coast of Florida by playing the piano for tips.

Well, as of recently, he may be doing much more than making a living! In fact, Gould told a local paper, “I was thinking I could just put my hat on the piano and make a couple dollars and get tips…I didn’t expect it to jump out to this” (WWSB-TV).

Donald Gould’s heart wrenching story is told in detail below, but first for some good news! After gaining internet fame for his piano playing – including covers of Styx, Billy Joel, and Bach songs – he’s been offered a job at a local bar.

While one job is a far cry from stability, it’s this type of compassion that will get him off the streets. What a blessing.

Jesse Schenker’s success story is another heartwarming tale of how one man beat addiction & homelessness!

From Talented Child to Homeless Addict

Daniel Gould’s story begins when he picked up a clarinet as a child. He instantly fell in love with the instrument and continued playing throughout his life. After joining the Marines Corps, he began to play clarinet in their official band.

Eventually, Gould returned home to Michigan. He enrolled in a Christian liberal arts college called Spring Arbor. His aspiration? To teach music to children.

With tuition ever increasing, he decided to instead focus on starting a family and working. He married, had children, and things were wonderful until one day in 1998.

His wife died and, overcome with grief, Gould descended into addiction. He eventually lost his three-year-old son and ended up homeless. He bounced around the United States and found his way to Sarasota, Florida.

That’s where Gould lives today. Although he’s put his substance abuse behind him, he’s still stuck in the hand-to-mouth cycle of extreme poverty. His situation isn’t that unique either. According to a 2013 report, it’s estimated that over 600,000 are stuck in the same vicious cycle.

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Bringing Smiles to the World

Today, Gould is still riding the wave of viral video fame. He’s looking forward to getting a job playing piano or performing and teaching some other type of music. This last part, teaching, is what’s brought him the most joy.

Remember, Gould was studying to be a music teacher before he started his family. Today, that simple joy is what keeps him going. In fact, children have been coming up to Gould as he’s playing recently and asking him if they can play.

Gould will move over, let them sit down, and help them play something simple. When asked about his teaching spirit, he responded,

“I play the ‘Heart and Soul’ bass, I say ‘just hit the white keys, you can’t screw up’… It doesn’t matter how they play, if they play crappy or good, I always clap for them…I’m a nurturer, I’m a teacher” (People Magazine).

Learn some of the many blessings of sobriety!

The Surprising Spiral From Athlete to Addict

Athlete or Addict?

athlete turning into drug addict

I recently stumbled across a heart wrenching Sport’s Illustrated article that detailed the downward spiral many young athletes take into addiction. The article itself touched briefly on statistics about athletes and addiction, as well as how drug cartels are targeting athletes, but more compelling were the stories of numerous student athletes derailed by painkiller and heroin abuse.

Those “profiled” include Roman Montana, Patrick Trevor, Amber Masters, and others. These were some incredibly talented athletes with the potential to go pro.

Roman was a promising baseball, basketball, and MMA star from Albuquerque, NM. He became addicted to painkillers after being injured in 2008. He died from a heroin overdose in 2012.

Patrick was a star New Jersey high school lacrosse player. After his thumb was shattered in 2009, he became dependent on painkillers. After moving on to heroin, he got sober in 2012.

Amber was a star California soccer player. After following a similar trajectory as Roman and Patrick, she became hooked on heroin. Her addiction grew to the point that she began selling heroin and introduced her younger brother to the drug. He died of an overdose in 2012.

Today, Amber is clean and sober. Her brother’s death was a wake up call that she needed to turn her life around. She did, but not everyone is so lucky.

Roman Montana’s overdose death in 2012 was just one of a growing number of student athlete deaths. In fact, since 2011, at least eight athletes in the Albuquerque area have died of a heroin or prescription painkiller overdose.

There’s clearly something very wrong here. What’s going on? Why are so many athletes turning into addicts? Perhaps it has something to do with Mexican cartels and how they’re targeting student athletes.

Read about what heroin withdrawal is like from a recovering addict’s point of view

Cartels Targeting Student Athletes

One of the most surprising elements of the Sport’s Illustrated article was their suggestion that sophisticated Mexican cartels are actively pursuing young athletes.

Jack Riley, the DEA’s Chief of Operations, recognized this pattern around ten years ago. He noticed cartels began “marketing” heroin to those with a high likelihood of abusing prescription drugs.

No specific population is more susceptible to receiving prescriptions for powerful opioids, and abusing those prescriptions, than athletes. In fact, a seven-month Sport’s Illustrated investigation uncovered rampant prescription opioid and heroin abuse in almost all sports.

heroin addicted athletes
image via Flickr user Dimitris Kalogeropoylos

This investigation concluded that opioid overdoses have occurred across the country in sports like baseball, basketball, football, golf, gymnastics, hockey, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, volleyball, and wrestling.

Of these overdoses, almost all involving heroin can be traced back to cartel manufactured drugs. Riley himself has seen this firsthand. When asked about the influence of Mexican made heroin, he stated,

“’[The cartels] have developed a strategy, with the help of street gangs, to put heroin in every walk of life. They recognize how vulnerable young athletes are’” (Sport’s Illustrated).

Statistics on Athletes and Addiction

Having examined how heroin is “marketed” to student athletes, what about it’s impact on their lives? We looked at some specific and heartbreaking examples above, but what about national trends?

Things aren’t looking good. According to research from the University of Michigan’s Monitoring the Future Survey, around 11% of senior level high school athletes have used painkillers for nonmedical purposes.

With that many students abusing painkillers, and heroin being aggressively pushed on them by criminal enterprises, it’s no wonder there have been so many overdoses.

Equally alarming is research from Philip Todd Veliz, a scientist from the University of Michigan. He conducted a 2013 study on over 1,400 young athletes. His findings?

Well, he concluded that adolescent males playing sports are two times more likely to be prescribed painkillers and four times more likely to misuse/abuse them than males of the same age who don’t play sports.

Two times more likely to be prescribed painkillers and four times more likely to abuse them? That sounds alarming at best and downright terrifying at worst. Playing sports, something that’s universally touted and pushed on our children, can cause them to be much more likely to abuse drugs? That isn’t right.

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Why are So Many Athletes Turning Into Addicts?

There are more forces at work than drug dealers targeting student athletes. Perhaps another reason so many athletes are turning into addicts has to do with what I’ve dubbed the “culture of play.”

This is the idea that, no matter what, athletes need to be on the field, court, or rink. It doesn’t matter if they’re injured. It doesn’t matter if they’re sick. It doesn’t matter if they’re unable to play in whatever way. They’ll simply take a pill and get back to the game.

This culture of play could be one of the reasons so many athletes are turning to opioid pain pills to get them through injuries. And the line between use, misuse, abuse, and addiction is incredibly thin.

There’s also the idea that doctors simply aren’t informed about the drugs they’re dispensing to young athletes or, if they are, they aren’t properly communicating the potential risks to families. Although this is hard to believe – it’s 2015 and the opioid epidemic is in full swing – it seems to have occurred in at least a few of the cases examined in Sport’s Illustrated.

Take, for example, Patrick’s story. He received a prescription for Roxicodone almost right after his injury. Although his doctor knew a bit about the drug, he even joked that Trevor “got the good stuff,” he did nothing to warn Trevor or his family.

This type of uninformed and negligent prescribing is how we ended up with a countrywide painkiller epidemic to begin with. It’s disheartening to see that, many years later, some doctors still haven’t learned their lesson.

Do you think your child or loved one may be abusing heroin or painkillers? Learn how to be sure today

What’s the Solution?

This is where many are left scratching their head, wondering, “huh? There’s a solution?” The good news is that yes, there is hope for the recent tide of adolescent athlete-addicts. The bad news is that it isn’t a quick fix.

drug dealers targeting student athletes
image via Flickr

The solution to athletes turning into addicts is as complicated as the problem itself. That is – there are doctors overprescribing opioids, while drug cartels and dealers are targeting those receiving prescriptions. The answer is for doctors to cut down on prescribing opioids and for addiction treatment to be readily accessible to those who need it.

The first part, eliminating the over the top prescribing attitude of doctors, is already being implemented. Things like prescription monitoring services are cracking down on “pill mills” and other sources of powerful opioids across the country.

Increasing access to treatment, on the other hand, is a bit harder to implement. Some major steps, like mental health and substance abuse insurance parity, have been made in the past few years, but there’s still a long way to go.

Until then, there are going to be drug dealers targeting those who are at risk for heroin abuse. Young athletes, old athletes, and everyone between will continue to get hooked and overdose. It’s sad, but it’s the truth.

People like Roman Montana, Patrick Trevor, Amber Masters, and the rest of this new generation of addict-athletes are living, and sometimes dying, proof of this.

The Heartbreaking Toll of Addiction & Mental Illness Combined

A Worried Mother & an Addicted Son

Barbara Theodosiou isn’t a household name. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people outside of a particular community who know her name. That doesn’t change the fact that she’s fighting a life or death battle.

“There is no peace for me. Ever again. This is a life sentence,” Barbara uttered during a speech in Oakland Park, FL. She was talking about the impact her son Daniel’s death has had on her life and work.

the addicts mom
image via The Addict’s Mom

Barbara Theodosiou is the founder of a support group called The Addict’s Mom. She started it in 2008 to help other families struggling with addiction. Since 2008, The Addict’s Mom has exploded. What started as a small Facebook group has grown to monumental proportions – 30,000 members and chapters in each of the fifty states.

Still, when Barbara lost Daniel, a twenty-three year old boy struggling with addiction and mental illness, none of her group’s success mattered. She was simply heartbroken that her child, who had been missing for a week, was gone.

Daniel passed away in April. She’s still awaiting the toxicology report. Over the last few months, Barbara has thrown herself all the more into advocating for mental health and substance abuse treatment reform.

She’s using Daniel’s story and her own heartache to raise awareness of the dangers individuals with co-occurring disorders face. She’s committed to reforming a broken system – the mental health and addiction treatment industry as it pertains to schools, jails, and youth.

This is her story.

“Text message therapy” is real and it’s saving lives!

The Addict’s Mom

Barbara’s path to mental health advocate isn’t a straight line. She never set out to reform anything. She was just a mother struggling with her two sons’ addictions.

Her eldest child, Peter, was addicted to both painkillers and heroin. He abused them throughout his teenage years before getting sober. Today, he’s been in recovery for a number of years, has graduated college, and is doing well.

Daniel, on the other hand, is a tragic example of the deadly toll addiction and mental illness have on families. From as far back as elementary school, Daniel struggled with isolation and social issues.

Barbara took her son to see a psychiatrist at twelve. The doctor didn’t diagnosis Daniel with any specific mental illness, instead suggesting he potentially suffered from a few. These included ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome.

Soon, Daniel followed in his older brother’s footsteps and began abusing drugs. He escalated from over the counter medicines to just about anything he could get his hands on. Barbara believes he was self-medicating with substances.

That makes sense considering at school Daniel wasn’t offered much in the way of mental health treatment. There was no compassion or understanding when he got in trouble. There were only punitive measures like detention.

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An Ineffective System Led to Daniel’s Death

Of course that’s a vast oversimplification. Death from substance abuse and mental illness isn’t due to any single factor. Rather, it’s an amalgamation of several factors. In Daniel’s case, the largest was the incredibly ineffective mental health system in schools, jails, and even institutions.

And he wasn’t alone. Close to 9 million Americans suffer from a co-occurring disorder. Only 7%, or 630,000 people, are treated for both. While that number seems high, consider that 56%, or almost 5 and a half million people, are treated for neither.

Okay, let’s think about this for a second. There are 9 million people who’re struggling with both addiction and mental illness. Close to 5 and a half million receive no treatment at all. For either. That’s negligent in the extreme.

child dies of drug overdose
image via The Addict’s Mom

What about those with mental illness in jails and institutions? Well, according to the US Department of Justice, 56% of those in state prisons suffer from mental health issues. 45% of those in federal prison and 64% of those in jail suffer from mental health issues.

Those are incredibly large numbers. Something isn’t right here. In fact, something is very, very wrong.

That’s where The Addict’s Mom is focusing the majority of their advocacy. Among other tactics, they’ve submitted a bill to the Florida State Congress that would make it illegal to arrest an individual who’s currently in a psych ward.

The bill is born from Barbara’s direct experience. In late 2014, Daniel was receiving care from the psychiatric unit in St. Lucie Medical Center. While there, he allegedly assaulted a security officer.

The assault landed Daniel in jail and triggered to a chain of events which culminated in his death in April.

Barbara isn’t alone in her loss. Many members of The Addict’s Mom have lost children to either addiction or mental illness. Sherry Schlenke, one of these mothers, had a son who struggled with heroin addiction for twenty years before passing away a year and a half ago.

Barbara, Sherry, and the rest of those involved in the Florida chapter of The Addict’s Mom sent a letter to the legal team that prosecuted Daniel. In it, Barbara wrote,

“All I can do now is tell his story to the world in the hopes that I am able to make the smallest change in a broken system that houses the mentally ill in violent jails” (Gant Daily).

Small or not, some change is desperately needed. Let’s just hope it comes soon.

Is suicide contagious? Recent research think so…

Why Was a Toyota Executive Arrested for Importing Oxys?

Drug Importer or Chronic Pain Sufferer?

Toyota’s Chief of Corporate Communications, American born Julie Hamp, was arrested recently for importing oxycodone from America to Japan. Despite the headline catching nature of her arrest, she wasn’t caught with millions of pills. It remains unclear whether she was smuggling in prescription drugs or simply fell victim to international medication laws.

importing pills to japan

Ms. Hamp, appointed as a senior executive in April, was arrested by Tokyo police for violating the Narcotics Control Act, which bans foreigners from bringing in medication. Lawyers for both Toyota and Hamp deny that she was smuggling drugs.

The circumstances surrounding her arrest tell a different story. An international package containing approximately sixty oxycodone pills was delivered to Japanese customs officers in June. The package was listed as containing necklaces, but was found to contain Oxys hidden in many smaller boxes.

Japanese officials haven’t released details about much else. The type of oxycodone is still unknown, as is the strength of the pills. Police have, however, raided Toyota headquarters and its offices in Tokyo.

This type of raid is common after an arrest, especially a high profile arrest featuring an American citizen.

The largest painkiller bust in US history…

What Do We Know So Far?

While the details on Ms. Hamp’s arrest and trial are still being kept closely under wraps, there is some information we do know. As mentioned above, we know the pills were hidden and mislabeled.

In a public response, the CEO of Toyota, Akio Toyoda, apologized that someone from his company had caused such controversy. He also came to Hamp’s defense, stating she’s an “indispensable” part of the company and expressing regret that they hadn’t helped her transition to a new country better.

Mr. Toyoda also went on record as saying, “Through the investigation, I believe that we will learn she had no intent to violate the law” (CNN).

We know Japanese law as well. Oxycodone is a legal prescription drug in Japan. In fact, it’s controlled and distributed in a similar manner to how it is in the US. Japan’s laws are incredibly strict when it comes to importing all prescription medication however.

To import just about any medication, from oxycodone to Advair, you need to obtain permission from the government ahead of time. More on this below.

We also know the criminal sentencing guidelines for those found guilty of importing oxycodone and other narcotic pills. They range in severity depending on the individual case, but importing controlled narcotics carries with it a prison sentence of between one and ten years.

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A History of Importing Prescription Meds

This isn’t the first time an American has gotten into trouble for bringing prescription medication into Japan. This isn’t even the first case of it this year!

In early 2015, Carrie Russell, a twenty-six year old teacher, was arrested and detained for over two weeks. Her crime? Receiving a package of Adderall from her mother.

Ms. Russell’s mother, a doctor in Oregon, sent her the pills for her ADD. Still, she was held for an extended period of time and only released after a number of American politicians and diplomats intervened.

Officials don’t know why these people are overdosing…

So What?

That’s a natural question to ask about Julie Hamp’s arrest. So what? Why should we care that someone was arrested for bringing powerful painkillers into a foreign country? If anything, doesn’t it make sense?

It certainly does. No one should be above the law of any country. Still, Ms. Hamp’s arrest, and Ms. Russell’s before, reveal an interesting trend. They show the scope of America’s prescription medication addiction on an international scale.

Let me be clear, when I say “America’s prescription medication addiction,” I’m not suggesting that either Hamp or Russell are addicted to pills. Indeed, both appear to have legitimate reasons for needing prescription meds. Russell suffers from ADD and Hamp has a history of chronic knee pain.

american arrested in japan

What I do mean is that Americans love prescription medication. Our country writes more prescriptions, and for stronger, more dangerous drugs, than any other country. Why do you think we’re in the midst of the opioid epidemic?

It’s interesting to see this play out on a global scale. I’m sure Hamp and Russell aren’t the first Americans to be arrested for bringing controlled drugs into foreign countries. I’m also sure they won’t be the last.

So what can we do? How can we curb the arrest of US citizens on foreign soil?

Simple – we can break our dependence on prescription drugs. Those suffering from chronic pain can try alternative methods of pain relief. Guess what? Not only will this eliminate any possible arrests, but it will also eliminate the potential for opioid addiction. Not to mention that practices like acupuncture and physical therapy have been shown to be effective pain relief methods.

This type of shift, from narcotic painkillers to various “lifestyle treatments,” may sound radical. It isn’t. It’s intensely practical and has far-reaching and positive impacts. Bring it on!

Addiction Treatment Therapist Arrested for Trafficking Heroin

A Very Strange Story

Amy C. Gagnon and David S. Yeomans were arrested in mid-June for trafficking in heroin, possession of a Class B drug, and conspiracy to violate Massachusetts’ drug laws.

Ms. Gagnon, of New Hampshire, and Mr. Yeomans, of Massachusetts, are an interesting pair. Yeomans is a stock boy at a small grocery story, while Gagnon is actually a substance abuse counselor at a New Hampshire treatment center.

arrest for drug powder

Yeah, that makes her arrest a bit more confusing. What’s an addiction therapist doing trafficking heroin? Why was she arrested with a man on methadone maintenance? Where the drugs hers or his?

These questions are still up for debate in the courtroom. Both Gagnon and Yeomans have plead not guilty and both are saying the drugs belonged to the other party.

Despite finding heroin on Ms. Gagnon’s person, and $1,000 and eight oxycodone pills in her purse, her lawyer is arguing that her client was scared for her life. Mr. Yeomans is accused of threatening to kill her unless she copped to the drugs being hers.

It’s a complicated, confusing, and ultimately sad story. More important than any specific details, which are still unclear anyway, is the larger implication Gagnon’s arrest brings up. Many addiction treatment specialists – be they therapists, counselors, doctors, or support staff – are in recovery. Since relapse is a part of recovery for many individuals, it makes sense that some addiction professionals will indeed relapse.

Was that the case with Gagnon? We don’t know. All we do know is that she was arrested with Yeomans, who was under the influence, and she had drugs in her possession.

As the legal system sorts out exactly what happened, let’s look at the larger picture. Let’s look at those that work in treatment and are in recovery themselves.

The frightening truth about doctors & drugs…

Substance Abuse Counselors & Sobriety

Recovering from any sort of addiction is hard. That’s actually an understatement. Recovering from any sort of addiction is the hardest thing most people will ever do. It requires sustained focus, uncomfortable emotional, mental, and spiritual work, and a tremendous humbling of the ego.

Those are things that most people avoid. When it comes to addicts and alcoholics, however, those are things they avoid like the plague. I know because I’m a man in long-term recovery myself.

As of writing this, I’ve been sober for just over seven years. In a typical alcoholic story, those seven years really took me about ten to get.

So, after finally getting sober, I decided it was my duty to help others. I started working in treatment when I had a few years. I started as a behavioral health technician (also known as resident assistant, counselor assistant, and a host of other names).

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It wasn’t hard to find work in treatment. I am, after all, in South Florida. You can hardly throw a rock without hitting some sort of treatment center, addiction therapist, or sober living home.

Guess what I found once I started working in the field? Most everyone else was also in recovery. At the first treatment center I worked at, pretty much everyone from techs right up to the clinical director were sober. There were a few outliers (who were either saints or insane!), but 99% of the employees were recovering addicts and alcoholics.

With this huge number of men and women in recovery working in addiction treatment, it’s only natural that some will relapse. And that relapse, despite being par for the course, can have some disastrous effects on the very people we’re trying to help.

How to avoid relapsing on drugs & alcohol!

Relapse is Real

I’ve seen a lot of people in treatment relapse. While working as a BHT, I watched my fellow techs drink frequently. Now, that’s not to say everyone was drinking around the clock, but on average one tech drank every couple of months.

This led to high turnover and a decreased level of care for the patients we were there to serve. It also made sobriety and recovery appear tenuous to these “fresh into sobriety” folk.

At the end of the day, sobriety is tenuous…if you’re not doing what you’re supposed to. If you’re not going to meetings, helping other alcoholics, regularly examining your behavior and motives, and seeking to grow as a man or woman of God – then of course you’re going to drink.

relapse in recovery

Still, that’s not a good look for patients, many still detoxing, to see. Things were slightly better the further up the “treatment ladder” I climbed. I saw therapists, counselors, and group facilitators drink, but with much less frequency. Still, a relapse is a relapse.

Where am I going with all this? How does my experience working in treatment and seeing men and women relapse relate to a therapist (who may not even be in recovery) being arrested in Massachusetts?

Well, they both reinforce one major point – sobriety isn’t guaranteed. It’s only by doing the work mentioned above (going to meetings, helping others, etc.) that we’re guaranteed to stay clean and sober.

Simply having time doesn’t cut it. Working in the field obviously doesn’t cut it. Being intelligent and knowing that relapse isn’t a smart idea…that doesn’t cut it.

Individuals in recovery from substance abuse need to be constantly vigilant about their sobriety. This is true whether you work in treatment or in finance. It’s true across the board.

Was Amy Gagnon in recovery? Did she suffer a relapse and get caught while using? I don’t know. Ultimately, I don’t have to know. What I do know is that as long as I keep doing what I know to be good for me – I won’t relapse. What a gift!

Speaking of relapse…are steroids in recovery a relapse?

Was This Woman Fired for Being an Alcoholic?

Was She Fired Because of Alcohol Abuse?

is alcoholism a disability

A Pennsylvania woman was allegedly fired from her job for being an alcoholic, though the nitty-gritty of what happened is still up for debate. In fact, it’s being debated in a Pennsylvania courtroom right now.

Lucy Dufala is suing Primanti Bros. Restaurant Corp. for wrongful termination and a host of other infringements. In early 2012, Dufala was working at Primanti Bros. as a waitress. She was also drinking heavily.

She sought help for her rapidly worsening alcohol abuse in January. The following month, she entered an inpatient drug and alcohol treatment center. During her two-week stay, she was allegedly told by her boss not to return to Primanti Bros. after getting out.

Okay, that’s a rough situation to be put in. Is it worth a lawsuit though? Does Dufala have a case for wrongful termination and discrimination? The answer will ultimately come down to how alcoholism is viewed in the eyes of the law.

What’s the latest data on adolescent brain development and alcohol?

What’s the Big Deal?

While being fired for seeking alcohol treatment is a morally reprehensible move, is it illegal? Well, it is if Dufala was otherwise a capable employee.

Her lawsuit alleges that she was fired because of a disability. In this case, the disability just happened to be alcoholism. Otherwise, Dufala claims she was “a qualified individual with a disability who was able to perform her job functions with or without an accommodation” (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette).

This type of discriminatory practice, firing someone solely because of a disability, isn’t allowed under a number of laws, the most well know of which is the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Dufala’s lawsuit goes on to allege that there were eight other people employed by Primanti Bros. who drank heavily and still performed their jobs. While she was fired, these eight employees weren’t.

Her argument is, at its most basic, that she suffered consequences (losing her job) from her disability (alcoholism), not from the quality of her work, and that no one else suffered consequences from their disability. Her entire lawsuit hinges on whether alcoholism is considered a disability by the courts.

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Is Alcoholism a Disability?

There’s a case to be made for both sides here. On one hand, alcoholism is certainly a disability. It’s recognized as one by the ACLU and the Americans with Disabilities Act. It also has a long history of being recognized as a disease by the American Medical Association and other professional bodies.

On the other hand, alcoholism is one of the only self-inflicted disabilities I can think of. Don’t get me wrong, I believe alcoholics are born with the disease. I say this as someone with an academic understanding of alcoholism and as someone in recovery from substance abuse myself.

Still, there’s an invisible line we all cross from alcohol abuse to full-blown alcohol addiction. Dufala crossed that line at some point. It’s impossible to say when it was. Go to any treatment center or twelve-step meeting and that fact will become abundantly clear.

Dufala drank to the point that her abuse became dependence. Does that make her alcoholism any less of a disability, legally speaking? It remains to be seen. For this reason, and the others outline above, her lawsuit has far reaching consequences for the future of how we as a country handle substance abuse.

Women are drinking more often and in larger quantities than men…

Laura from The Sobriety Collective

My Name is Laura & This is My Story

the sobriety collective
Sober karaoke via The Sobriety Collective

On July 13th, 2007, I was hospitalized for alcohol poisoning–AGAIN (read: the second time in my life). I only drank for six years–first year of college until right after my 24th birthday–but those six years were action packed.

My drinking started out as fun. Growing up, while absolutely adorable, I always felt like something was off. I struggled to fit in. I was constantly teased and bullied. I was the nerdy type in middle and high school, not entirely socially awkward but definitely insecure and hyper-sensitive–which made me a perfect target.

I battled with anxiety, OCD, and panic attacks throughout my childhood and teen years, and when I got to college, I wanted to shed that old identity and become a more “fun” version of myself. Whatever that meant. So naturally, underage drinking appealed to me–and I fell into a crowd of kids who liked to have a good time. (At the time, I didn’t think their–or my, for that matter, behavior was dangerous.) We had lots of fun and I became the life of the party. I was me–but I was a me that wasn’t anxious and fidgety. Hallelujah! Self-medication (I didn’t have the language then to know that’s what I was doing) didn’t feel so bad; I didn’t know that I was hiding from my problems but I felt alive, and I wanted to sustain that feeling.

Problem Drinking (From Bad to Worse)

Soon, though, fun for me often turned into fun with problems. Losing phones, drunk dialing (before I lost those phones), hazy memory. Then just problems. Going home with random guys, blacking out entirely, injuring myself (the infamous broken foot incident), embarrassing myself and my friends, over-sharing personal secrets, becoming “that” girl that had to be babysat, and waking up with dreaded hangovers cocooned by feelings of shame, guilt, and terror.

Believe it or not, it got worse after graduation. That was when I made my first hospital “visit.” Not a glamorous walk-through but an ambulance-driven, paramedic-carried, shame fest. And after that, I vowed never to drink again. I went through several dry periods but couldn’t commit to taking the leap to sobriety. None of my friends were going through this–how could I possibly not go to bars and parties at 22? How would I ever have fun again? So I slowly crept back into drinking, and I picked right back up where I left off. And that’s when the night of July 13th happened.

I was in New York City for the first time with a previous coworker. We drank airplane bottles all the way up from DC, drank some more at his friend’s place, drank some more at Madison Square Garden (MSG–not the preservative). Did I mention my sole subsistence for the day was a bagel? Before I knew it, I was running around in the lobby, one flip flop dangling, the other foot bare, without my purse, crying and begging for help. But the language that was coming out wasn’t English. It was drunk-babble. And no one could help me. Fortunately, the kindly MSG police officers called an ambulance and they whisked me away to a busy NYC hospital. When I came to, seven hours later–yes, this implies I blacked out–I was still drunk. But I had no way to find my cousin, who I was supposed to stay with post-concert (Dispatch, for those interested–amazing band–and I don’t remember a thing).

Unbeknownst to me, while I was passed out on the hospital bed, someone had turned in my purse to the MSG security guard. Everything was intact and my phone still had battery. So he called a recent number–either my mom or my cousin–and told whomever he spoke with that he had my belongings but I couldn’t be found. Yeah, that sounds like a fun call. I can’t imagine the sheer PANIC and TERROR my family went through as they listened to that man tell them they couldn’t trace back to me. And of course, when I came to, I didn’t have my phone and didn’t know any phone numbers by heart (my parents had just moved back to the States from living abroad and I hadn’t memorized their phone number) so the only thing I could think of was to call my Grandma. I lied to her–which I’ve had to forgive myself for–and told her I arrived late and needed my cousin’s phone number. Which she gave to me. (My lovely grandmother, who passed away in January of 2012, will always hold a dear place in my heart. Not only did she help save me that day, but she constantly believed in me and knew I would do something good with my life. Even though she never knew about my struggles with alcohol and my road to sobriety, I believe she could see that I changed my life for the better.) So I called my cousin, took the subway to her apartment, bathed in anxiety for the rest of the day, and the next day took the bus back to DC (remember, my bus ticket, along with everything else, was miraculously still in my purse!) feeling like I had escaped from my body and mind.

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Recovery (Free at Last!)

laura sobriety
the author as a sober woman of grace & dignity

The only thing I could think to do was take a few days off of work with a bad excuse because I needed space to breathe. I called my health insurance company’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health division and asked for help. I met with a counselor who had me take the standard “Are you an Alcoholic” test, and I naturally answered “yes” to most of the questions but still couldn’t admit to a problem. Hell, I was only 24 and didn’t live under a bridge with paper bag-covered bottles of booze. I never drove drunk. So how could I be an alcoholic? Still though, I took that lovely woman’s suggestion and gave the group counseling sessions she led a try, and that was the beginning of my journey. Five weeks, three days a week for two hours each, coupled with 15 hours of Alcoholics Anonymous (that’s 15 separate times I had to sheepishly walk to the front of the room and get my paper signed). All of us were breathalyzed at the beginning of every counseling session–it was intense. We would always recite our sobriety dates at the beginning of “class,” and while mine continued to stay the same, many from my cohort changed each week. Somehow, mine miraculously didn’t change. I started to like not having alcohol as a crutch, but I still couldn’t think in terms of “forever.” It’s only when I read Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood (Koren Zailckas is brilliant, by the way) that I felt an internal click–something (my newfound sobriety?) was churning inside of me. It was like living my life, in book form.

Soon my recovery started to become a source of pride for me. I would celebrate each month, and then each year. Lo and behold, by doing this “one day at a time” (one of the 12 step-isms that I will always love—and have, literally, tattooed on my back), with constant support from my family, friends, and a sense of spiritual attachment to the universe/nature, I will be celebrating eight years of continuous sobriety in July. Don’t get me wrong, I still have OCD. I still have panic attacks. I still have regular problems that regular people have.

But I face them all head on, and SOBER.

 
 

Connect with Laura on her amazing recovery site The Sobriety Collective or follow her on Twitter @wearesober!

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